P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Centre may fix 7.5 pc interest rate on loans
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 28
The Union Government is seriously thinking to cap the rate of interest on all the Central loans advanced to the states at 7.5 per cent. An announcement in this connection is expected to be made in the coming Union Budget, it is learnt. The present rate on central loans varies between 11 to 15 per cent.

In future, sources said, no loan would be advanced by the Union Government to the states. Only grants would be given for various schemes approved by the Planning Commission. The states would be allowed to raise productive loans through their own channels to boost their growth rate.

Obviously, the lowering of interest rates would provide a big relief to almost all states which are heavily under debt. Punjab would be one of the major beneficiaries as its annual interest burden is expected to come down by Rs 2000 crore per annum on the loans advanced by the Centre, say sources. Moreover, the period to return the loan is expected to be spread over 20 or 25 years. Sources said that the Union Government is expected to take these steps in the light of the recommendations of the 12th Finance Commission.

Burdened by the debt, most of the states have been pressing the Union Government to provide them some sort of relief to restructure their economy and to gear up the development process. The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, has referred the issue to the Finance Commission. Sources said that both the Prime Minister and the Union Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram, have accepted the proposals of the commission regarding relief to be given to the states. The states are also expecting increase in their revenue with the implementation of VAT.

CM to meet Planning Commission on Feb 1

The top brass of the Punjab Government will meet the Planning Commission to discuss the next Annual Plan ( 2005-06) on February 1. Punjab team will be led by the Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh and he would be accompanied by Finance Minister, Surinder Singla, Principal Finance Secretary, K.R. Lakhanpal and Secretary, Planning, Mr A.R. Talwar.

The Punjab Government has pegged its plan at Rs 3000 crore for the next financial year. The maximum allocation has been made to the power sector. “We have reduced the size of the plan to implement in letter and spirit.

The government is sure that it would be having enough funds to finance the projects to be undertaken as a part of the new plan. It was of no use to have a Plan worth Rs 3400 crore and then not to make funds available to implement the same”, said a senior officer of the government.


Rana Sodhi controversy refuses to die down
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 28
Explanations given by Chief Parliamentary Secretary Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi to the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief, Mr H.S. Hanspal, and the subsequent inquiry ordered by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh notwithstanding, the controversy over the Pathankot land scam refuses to die down.

In Gurdaspur, the Income Tax Department has started looking into the alleged payment of Rs 25 lakh, which the complainant, Mr G.S. Sidhu, claims to have made to the Chief Parliamentary Secretary of Punjab some years ago to secure the lease deed of a piece of land belonging to the Jammu & Kashmir Government.

Yesterday, the Akali Dal MPs had called on the President and presented him a memorandum demanding action against Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi.

The reported scam has come at a time when the state is to witness its third byelection in Ajnala on February 23. It gives the Opposition, Shiromani Akali Dal and Bharatiya Janta Party (SAD-BJP) combine, a lever to blast the ruling Congress on its own plan — fighting corruption.

The Akalis, pouncing on the opportunity to assail the Congress, will not allow the scam to die down till polling takes place on February 23.

Though Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi has claimed innocence, maintaining that he had nothing to do with the complainant and that the voice in the telephonic conversation was not his, yet the party has left it to the inquiry officer, Mr Anil Kaushik, Additional Director-General of Police, to reach the truth.

Mr Hanspal said Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi had met him and pleaded innocence.

“I do not want to comment any further in the case as the state government has already ordered an inquiry to find out the truth”.

Mr Hanspal said the Chief Minister met Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee today.

The name of Mr Harpartap Singh Ajnala had been cleared for the Ajnala byelection. Two contenders for the party ticket are brothers. “Both Mrs Sonia Gandhi and Mr Pranab Mukherjee have cleared the name of Mr Harpartap Singh,” he said.


IT Dept begins probe into Sodhi episode
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, January 28
The intelligence wing of the Income Tax Department has initiated an inquiry into the alleged underhand dealing between Pathankot-based businessman Gurdev Singh Sidhu and Chief Parliamentary Secretary Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi.

Sources in the Income Tax Department said the department had initiated inquiry on the basis of news reports regarding the said dealing.

The department authorities were trying to procure affidavits given by Mr Gurdev Singh Sidhu to a section of the media leveling allegations of illegal transactions worth Rs 25 lakh with Mr Rana Sodhi.

The department would try to establish the source of the money that exchanged hands between Mr Sodhi and Mr Sidhu to verify its accountability, sources said.

Mr Gurdev Singh Sidhu had alleged that he paid Rs 25 lakh to Mr Sodhi in lieu to getting him a six kanal land on lease from the Jammu and Kashmir Government.

However, Mr Rana Sodhi allegedly failed to get the land for Mr Gurdev Singh. He also failed to return the money paid to him for the job.

Thereafter, the businessman allegedly released a tape that showed his conversion regarding the underhand deal with Mr Sodhi to a section of media.

Though the government has ordered an inquiry into the incident by an ADGP, the scenario has also attracted the attention of the income tax authorities.

The issue has also provided ammunition to the Opposition against the ruling Congress government for the Ajnala by elections.

The leaders of the Opposition here have been demanding a CBI inquiry into the case since a high government functionary was involved.

Mr Mohan Lal, former minister and senior BJP leader, while talking to newsmen alleged the Congress was trying to hush up the matter.


BJP for CBI probe against Sodhi
Our Correspondent

Nawanshahr, January 28
Dismissing an inquiry by the Additional Director-General of Police into the alleged corruption charges against the Chief Parliamentary Secretary, Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi, as an eye-wash, the state BJP president and MP, Mr Avinash Rai Khanna, has demanded a CBI probe into the matter.

The issuance of a 'clean chit' to Rana Sodhi, even before an inquiry and ordering inquiries by the PPCC president, Mr H.S. Hanspal, or an ADGP into the allegations of corruption against Sodhi, has exposed the real face of the 'anti- graft drive' launched by the Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, said Mr Khanna.

He said the BJP would submit a memorandum to the Governor in this regard.


Badal rejects police inquiry against Sodhi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 28
The President of the Shiromani Akali Dal( SAD), Mr Parkash Singh Badal, has rejected the probe ordered by Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh in a bribe case in which Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi, Chief Parliamentary Secretary, is allegedly involved.

Mr Badal said today that a senior police officer had been asked to probe the case because the Capt Amarinder Singh Government wanted to give a clean chit to Mr Sodhi. How could a police officer conduct an inquiry against the Chief Parliamentary Secretary who had been part of the Chief Minister’s office for long, he asked.

Mr Badal said the inquiry should be handed over to the CBI and Rana Sodhi removed from office.


FBI questions Kandahar hijacking accused
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 28
The Kandahar hijacking accused today stonewalled inquiries by a two-member FBI team from the USA along with the Assistant Legal Attache of the US Embassy, in the Central Jail here.

The two-member FBI team, which arrived here yesterday along with US Embassy official Trung M. Vu, had submitted a request to the designated Anti-Hijacking Court here to interrogate the accused.

The request was granted by Sessions Judge S.M.S. Mahar, who is heading this court which meets in the Jail complex only for security reasons.

The FBI team questioned the alleged hijackers —Yusuf Nepali, Dalip Kumar Bhujail and Abdul Latif, separately. The counsels of the two — H. V. Rai and Brijinder Singh Sodhi were allowed to be present during the questioning.

Sources said all three accused stonewalled attempts to be drawn into any discussion on the hijacking case.

In fact, the accused claimed that they did not know anything about the case due to which they could not answer any question relating to it. They even claimed that they had been falsely implicated in the case. The FBI team returned to Delhi today after failing to get any response from the accused.

The team had come to Patiala because an American citizen was also flying on the ill-fated aircraft in December, 1999, and it is mandatory under the US law to pursue cases where its citizens are involved.

Meanwhile, the cross-examination of M. Narayanan, Deputy Inspector- General, CBI, was continuing in the Designated Court.

Defence lawyer Brijinder Sodhi questioned Mr Narayanan about the evidence collected by the CBI.

The CBI officer was asked about the various pieces of evidence and asked to explain how they were corelated to frame charges against the accused.


Health services in Punjab sick
Poonam Batth
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 28
The health services in Punjab are virtually sick as hundreds of posts of doctor, including those of Senior Medical Officer (SMO), Medical Officer (MO) and dental doctors, continue to remain vacant. Nearly 60 per cent of these posts are lying vacant in the rural dispensaries and primary health centres.

According to official figures, the Department of Health and family Welfare, Punjab, has over 700 vacant posts of doctor across all districts of the state. This includes 30 posts of SMO, 50 posts of Medical Officer and 85 dental doctors. Since there have been no fresh recruitments since 1998, most of these posts have become defunct.

The instructions clearly stipulate that if any post remains vacant for over six months, it is automatically declared frozen. While doctors have been retiring or putting in their resignations from time to time, there have been no fresh appointments against these posts due to the ban on recruitments, said sources in the department.

“This has a definite bearing on the implementation on various national-level family welfare programmes, TB and leprosy programmes, polio, control of blindness, AIDS etc”, said a senior doctor on the condition of anonymity.

The situation of vacancies is no better at the top level and highlights the apathy of the government towards this vital sector. The statistics are starkly evident — the post of Director (ESI) is vacant since August 2004; two posts of Additional Director and one post of Joint Director are vacant. Of the 32 posts of Deputy Director, 16 are lying vacant. There is only one Deputy Director even in the office of Director, Health Services, Punjab, in Sector 34.

The posts of Medical Superintendent of ESI hospitals at Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Amritsar, which are also of the rank of Deputy Director, are also lying vacant. In the districts of Nawanshahr and Faridkot, the current duty charge of Civil Surgeon ( Deputy Director) has been given to those who are not even Deputy Directors.

This is primarily due to the delay in holding the departmental promotional committee meeting, said a senior functionary of the PCMS association.

He alleged that bureaucracy was deliberately delaying the meeting as it has eyes on the post of Director, Health Services ( DHS). If there are no regular postings to the posts of Additional and Joint Directors, no one will be capable of holding the charge of DHS in the coming years., he added.


Cong clears Harpartap’s name for Ajnala
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 28
The Congress High Command yesterday cleared the name of Mr Harpartap Singh for the Ajnala byelection which is to be held on February 23. The official announcement regarding this is expected soon.

His name was okayed following a meeting of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, with the Defence Minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, who is also in charge of the party affairs of Punjab, this afternoon. Mr Harpartap Singh, son of late, Mr Harcharan Singh Ajnala, Speaker of the Punjab Assembly, had lost the election in 2002 by a narrow margin of 356 votes to Dr Rattan Singh Ajnala, an Akali candidate, who later quit as MLA and was elected MP from Tarn Taran.

From Ajnala, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has named Mr Amarpal Singh, son of Dr Rattan Singh, as party candidate.

Mr Harpartap Singh’s brother, Mr Rajbir Singh, was also a contender to the party ticket. In fact Mr Harpartap Singh had contested as Independent candidate last time. The official candidate of the Congress, Mr Ravi Rajbir Singh, had lost the last election with a huge margin.

Meanwhile, before leaving for Delhi today, the Chief Minister held a closed-door meeting with the top brass of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB). Its proceedings are being kept secret.

Sources said that at the meeting three issues were discussed. First was with regard to the power crisis, that is expected to last up to June-July because of the low level of water in various dams where hydro-power generating units are located.

Capt Amarinder Singh today decided to take up the issue of power crisis with the Central Government. The Union Government would be asked to come to the state’s rescue.


EC approves Ajnala polling schedule
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 28
The Election Commission of India has approved the programme for holding Ajnala Assembly constituency byelection. The polling hours would be held from 8 am to 5 pm on February 23, while counting of votes would be held on February 27.

Stating this, Punjab’s Chief Electoral Officer G.S. Cheema said the last date for nomination would be February 5. The scrutiny of nominations would take place on February 7. The last date for the withdrawal would be February 9.

He said that Ajnala’s Sub-Divisional Magistrate had been appointed Returning Officer for the constituency. The nomination papers were to be filed with the Returning Officer between 11 am to 3 pm on any day except a public holiday from January 29 to February 5.

The nomination papers were available with Amritsar’s District Election Officer as well as the Returning Officer.

He clarified that January 29 and February 5 being Saturdays were not holidays under the Negotiable Instruments Act. Therefore, nomination papers could be presented to the Returning Officer on these days.

He further said model code of conduct had come into force in Amritsar district from the date of announcement of elections by the Election Commission of India and would remain in force till the completion of the election process.


Dal(A) writes to Nanavati
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, January 28
The Akali Dal (Amritsar) will reject the Nanavati Commission report if it fails to deliver justice to the Sikhs and hold the Congress responsible for the organised massacre of the Sikhs in November, 1984.

In a letter to Justice G.T. Nanavati, heading the commission probing into the massacre of Sikhs, Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, President, Akali Dal (Amritsar), has taken strong exception to the reports that the commission has exonerated the Congress and the state machinery for the massacre of Sikhs.

Mr Mann has observed, “No believer in a civil society can expect that a commission investigating the role of the then Congress political leadership into the organised massacre of more than 10,000 Sikhs can come to the conclusion that only the goons and lumpun elements carried out the dastardly crime. The lumpuns of Delhi were put to work by the Congress and the lumpuns were supplied with kerosene, petrol and other inflammable material and the voters lists of Delhi with the names of Sikhs earmarked for murder and meyham.”

Mr Mann has further written, “We respectfully submit that though the commission can hide itself behind the veil of acting only on the basis of evidence, it must be pointed out that when the state itself is the culprit and the entire state machinery is directly and indirectly involved, the commission should act according to conscience and collective knowledge of inhuman organised crime. Newspaper reports of the period and innumerable reports of civil liberty organisations had then documented the role of the Congress leadership in inciting and participating in the daylight murder of the Sikhs.”


Succour team returns
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Rajpura, January 28
A team of volunteers from here, which went to Nagapattinam to bring succour to tsunami sufferers, had to clean up their camp site and work in stench of the dead. They slept on the floor and had bath with water from tankers.

For the first two days, they cooked ‘daal’ and ‘chapatis for the victims. There were not many takers for the Punjabi fare. Not willing to give in,they took training from women of the area and were soon serving rice, ‘sambhar’,’dosa’ and ‘upama’ at their round-the-clock ‘langar’ on the V.D. College campus.

“Our big ‘tavas’ on which we used to make ‘chapatis’ by the scores, proved good for making ‘dosas’ also”, said Avtar Singh, one of the volunteers who came back from the tsunami- affected area yesterday. The volunteers,comprising Akali workers and SGPC employees, were led by Samana legislator Surjit Singh Rakhra whose brother and NRI Darshan Singh Dhaliwal provided money for the relief effort.

Mr Rakhra said,”Many disaster victims,whom we served on reaching there, had not eaten for the past two days. Once we started making South Indian dishes, people flocked to us. Later certain locals kept 12 vehicles at our disposal for taking the ‘langar’ to other affected areas”, said Surjit Singh Bhagora.

“People expressed their gratitude by refusing bus or taxi fares from us, even STD owners refused to take call tariff , said Mr Bhagora. “We even got offers to set up a gurdwara at Nagapattinam, , said Mr Rakhra. Of the 325 team members 150 have returned and the rest were still camping there. They would continue serving the ‘langar’ for another week , he added.


Shaurya Chakra for city resident
Pawan Kumar

Amritsar, January 28
Amardeep Singh (32), a resident of East Mohan Nagar, Sultanwind Road, has been nominated for Shaurya Chakra for killing two notorious dacoits who were wanted by the Bihar Government in various criminal cases. The Bihar Government had announced a reward of Rs 6 lakh on the head of the dacoits.

Elated after getting the confirmation letter from the Home Secretary in this regard, Amardeep claimed that he was the only civilian who would be honoured, while the remaining persons were from the armed forces.

Mr Amardeep Singh is the second person in the Holy City to get this award. Earlier, Mr Buta Ram of the same area had got this award for fighting against terrorists during militancy days.

While detailing the incident, he said that on September, 2003, he had gone on a business tour to Patna in Bihar. He said when he was returning to Patna junction after paying obeisance at Gurdwara Patna Sahib, four persons attacked him with .38-bore rifle near Patna police station. He said the accused shot at him due to which he was injured.

He said when the accused tried to snatch his bag having jewellery and cash worth thousands, he retaliated with his licensed revolver. In retaliation he killed two of the accused, while one of the injured accused and another person escaped.

He said the then DGP, the DC and the SSP here asked the Bihar government to recommend his name for Shaurya Chakra. However, he rued that the Bihar Government neither recommended his name for the award nor gave a single penny for killing the dacoit.

Amardeep Singh was also awarded on August 15, 2004 for his bravery. He was honoured with Rs 50,000, a shawl and a certificate.


BC Roy Award for Ludhiana doctors
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, January 28
In a rare distinction, a team of doctors headed by Dr Ajit Sood, Professor and Head, gastroenterology unit of the Dayanand Medical College and Hospital (DMCH) here has been awarded the prestigious Dr B.C. Roy National Award for 2003 in the category of research projects.

Besides Dr Sood the other team members Dr Vandana Midha, Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, Dr Neena Sood, Professor, Department of Pathology and Dr G. Awasthi, Professor and Head, Department of Medicine were working on celiac disease caused due to wheat allergy. The national award will enable the team to carry forward the research in various dimensions of the gastro-intestinal disease.

Dr Sood and his team were also actively involved in various research projects of international and national level on inflammatory bowel disease and chronic hepatitis. The pioneering research work done by the DMCH team had received wide acclaim.

Talking about the research project, which had received the prestigious award for his team, Dr Sood said celiac disease, caused due to wheat allergy, was prevalent, both among children and adults.“It has been observed that the yearly increase in the number of patients diagnosed with this disease is alarming. Serious thought should be given to identify the possible reasons for this increase in prevalence.”


Residents rue poor water supply
Our Correspondent

Nabha, January 28
In spite of tall claims of the local municipal council, there is no water in the taps during the supply hours especially in the morning. The supply of water remained poor during the winter, complain residents.

According to the residents, the authorities claimed that inadequacy was due to menace of tullu-pumps in summers and the condition would improve in the winters. But the problem remained grave.

The residents complain that pressure is very low and their roof tanks remain empty for most of the time. A senior citizen, Mr Prem Gupta, complained that the booster pump, catering to the needs of the residents of at least five wards, after remaining out of order for the past two years was repaired recently, but it was not working properly.

Mr Rajesh Kumar, another resident, said water was also of poor quality as the pipes were rusted and due to seepage drain water was mixing with the domestic supply. He said the low pressure was due to inadequate water tanks in the town, as it had only one tank for about 1.5 lakh residents.


Riat factory workers protest
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 28
Protesting against the alleged compulsory retrenchment of workers of Riat Machine Tools Factory, the Moulder and Steel Workers’ Union held a dharna here today.

Addressing the agitating workers Mr Mahinder Singh, leader of union, blamed the district administration and the Labour Department for flouting labour laws.

“By giving a chance to owners of such factories to violate labour laws, the administration and the officials of the Labour Department are encouraging such people,” Mr Mahinder Singh said.

Mr Mohan Singh, president, of the union, said the workers who have been compulsorily laid off had worked with the factory for five to 20 years. However, the factory was not providing them facilities in accordance with the labour laws.

Union leaders said the workers had been demanding that temporary workers be taken on rolls and workers be given other facilities like ESI cards but neither the management nor the Labour Department did anything about these issues. Instead, at least six workers were turned out without even being given any bonus, gratuity or other service benefits. They alleged that when other workers demanded service benefits, the factory owners, without giving them salary for the month of December, laid-off 17 workers.

The leaders said they had complained time and again to the Labour Department and the district administration but the workers were yet to meet any justice on the issue.

The union members threatened to intensify their struggle if the administration and the Labour Department failed to take any concrete action against the factory owners.


Protest against Pak play ‘Bullha’
Neeraj Bagga

Amritsar, January 28
Pakistani play 'Bullha' staged at the local Guru Nanak Dev Auditorium here on Wednesday drew protests from a section of the audience when some Sikh youths resented the presentation of a character as Sikh warrior Banda Singh Bahadur.

Written by Shaid Nadeem, a famous Pakistani playwright, the story is based on the most revered Sufi saint, Baba Bulle Shah, a rebel who fought against bigotry and hatred generated by orthdox and fundamentalist forces in the 16th century.

The Sikh youths complained that the character of Banda Bahadur was wrongly portrayed as he did not fight against Muslims but against the tyrant rulers who persecuted their subjects on the basis of religion.

The Ajoka theatre group for social change of Lahore presented the play. Its director, Ms Madeeha Gauhar, later addressing the audience said India was a big democracy and they felt that everybody had the right to express one's feelings. She said the play also faced criticism in Pakistan from Muslim fundamentalists as Baba Bulle Shah had been portrayed as a rebel against Mullahs and orthodox people.


DC acts against spurious reflector sellers
Tribune News Service

Mansa, January 28
Mr Raj kamal Chaudhary, deputy commissioner, today asked the SSP to apprehend some unscrupulous persons, who had been indulging in sale of low quality reflectors to the owners of private vehicles forcibly without any legal or administrative sanction from the district administration.

In a press statement issued here today, Mr Chaudhary said it had come to the notice of district administration that certain persons, claiming to be the representatives of Bright Star Reflective Products, Ghaziabad, had been fleecing the innocent travellers of the district by stopping their vehicles and then forcibly selling low quality reflectors at high a cost to them.

He said though he had received a number of complaints from the general public in this connection, he too had apprehended such persons while they were stopping private vehicles.

These persons were selling reflectors to the unsuspecting public and issuing them fake receipts of Rs 120, Rs 200 and Rs 250 denomination as reflector charges despite the fact that they were not having any legal or administrative sanction in this connection.

He also appealed to the general public not to be misguided by such persons and to approach the district administration in case of any such harassment or attempt by these persons to sell sub-standard reflective products.


Drive to curb corruption continues
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 28
Punjab Vigilance Bureau has nabbed red-handed two cops, including an Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) and a Head Constable (HC), besides a telephone mechanic with BSNL, in different bribery cases.

A bureau spokesman said ASI Sarabjit Singh deployed at Laluka Maur police post in Ferozepore district was nabbed on the basis of complainant Kala Singh’s statement. The ASI had allegedly demanded and accepted Rs 2000 as bribe for “joining investigation in a case where the Punjab and Haryana High Court had ordered stay”.

In the other case, HC Surinder Singh posted in Kapurthala was nabbed for allegedly demanding and accepting Rs 800 as bribe for taking action against other party and to help the complainant’s brother in a case.

Mechanic Mohinder Partap Singh, posted with the exchange in Mansa, was arrested for illegally demanding and accepting Rs 500 as bribe for activation of STD connection, the spokesman said.


Drive against corruption continues
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 28
Continuing with its campaign against corruption, the Punjab Vigilance Bureau has nabbed a Senior Medical Officer (SMO), a Junior Engineer, Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), and a patwari in different cases.

A bureau spokesman said that SMO with Kapurthala Civil Hospital Surinderpal Singh was caught red-handed while allegedly demanding and accepting a bribe of Rs 2000 from complainant Baldev Singh.

The SMO had allegedly demanded the money for giving a medical report under Section 326 of the Indian Penal Code in favour of complainant’s injured sister. Giving details of the other case, he added that PSEB’s Moga-based Junior Engineer Kheri Masih was arrested while he was allegedly demanding and accepting a bribe of Rs 4,000 from complainant Baljit Singh for providing him with a new tubewell connection.


PSEB cuts peak-load restrictions
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 28
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) has reduced the quantum of its peak-load restrictions for large supply consumers following widespread rain in the state.

An official released here said large supply consumers of all zones expert the central zone, Ludhiana, would now have to conform to the peak-load restrictions, which would be enforce from 6.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. Consumers of Ludhiana zone would have to conform to restrictions enforceable from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.


Resentment over erection of towers
Our Correspondent

Batala, January 28
Resentment prevails in the public against installation of towers of various mobile phone companies here. The height of these towers varies from 30 feet to 40 feet.

These heavy towers should not be installed in thickly populated areas, feels the Batala Citizen's Welfare Association.

A meeting of the association held here yesterday under the presidentship of Mr Vikas Aggarwal, demanded that these towers should be installed in commercial areas or outside the city.


Health Dept employees donate salary
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, January 28
Employees of the local Health Department have contributed their one day salary for tsunami victims.

Dr Yashpal Singla, Civil Surgeon, handed over a cheque for Rs 4,79,715 to Chief Minister Amarinder Singh here on Wednesday. Mr Bidhi Chand Thakur, Deputy Commissioner, Ferozepore, also handed over a cheque for Rs 33 lakh to the Chief Minister.


Minimum wages raised
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 28
The Punjab Government has increased the minimum wages in the state to Rs 2280 per month from Rs 2080 per month in 2002. Announcing this, Labour Minister Chaudhary Jagjit Singh said the amount was among the highest in the country.

He said that the minimum rates of wages were last revised on January 1, 2001, and were linked with the Consumer Price Index. An official spokesman said the Labour Department was laying stress on amicable settlement of the industrial dispute. The percentage of settlements rose to 52 in 2004 from 48 in 2002.


Recruitment for Assam Rifles from March 2
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 28
Assam Rifles open recruitment rally would be held at Chandigarh for all districts in Punjab from March 2 to March 7, 2005.

An official spokesman of Recruitment Selection Board of Assam Rifles said screening would be conducted for the post of rifleman, general duty and driver for Amritsar, Bathinda, Faridkot, Ferozepore, Fatehgarh Sahib, Gurdaspur, Mansa, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar and Kapurthala on March 2 at 8 am. For Ludhiana, Moga, Muktsar, Patiala, Nawanshahr, Roopnagar and Sangrur it would be held on March 3 at 8 am.


Life-term for 4 in looting case
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 28
Mr Jaspal Singh Chugh, Additional Sessions Judge (ad hoc), Fast Track Court, Sangrur, has awarded life imprisonment to four persons, Mulakh Raj, Hans Raj, Lakhwinder Singh and Rajinder Singh, all residents of Ludhiana district, in a case registered against them and some others at Dhuri police station in May 1996.

According to the prosecution, Mr Sukhdev Singh, the complainant, stated that he was a resident of Bhasaur village near Dhuri and was an agriculturist by profession and also owned a truck.

On the night of May 2,1996, his father, Mr Kapoor Singh, his wife Gurdev Kaur, his daughter Kamaljit Kaur, two younger children and he himself were sleeping in their house when at about 2.30 am some persons, armed with lathis, iron rods and datras, entered his house, overpowered the family members and asked them to hand over cash and gold ornaments to them. His father, Mr Kapoor Singh, pleaded with them to spare them but the persons started beating them and injured them.

In his order, the Judge has mentioned that in the crime committed by the accused, Mr Kapur Singh lost his life while complainant Sukhdev Singh, Gurdev Kaur and Kamaljit Kaur suffered injuries and they had been deprived of their valuable articles. Keeping in view the facts and circumstances of the case, accused Mulakh Raj, Hans Raj, Lakhwinder Singh and Rajinder Singh were sentenced to imprisonment for life each and directed to pay a fine of Rs 5,000 each. In default of payment of fine, they will undergo further RI for one year each under Section 460 of the IPC.


Stay granted on Punwire sale deed
Tribune News Service

Mohali, January 28
The Punjab and Haryana High Court today stayed the registration of the sale deed of part of Punjab Wireless Limited, (Punwire) sold to the Chandigarh based Winsome Group in December, 2004, by the official liquidator.

Following a consolidated bid made by the Sun Group, New Delhi, to buy the entire assets of the company for Rs 12 crore before the Punjab and Haryana High Court today, Justice M.M.Kumar directed the official liquidator to include the Sun Group’s offer among the other offers.

The Sun Group, in its petition, filed through city-based lawyer Vivek Bhandari, offered to buy the entire assets of the company for Rs 12 crore including the Punwire building located at B-77, Industrial area, Phase VII, here. The building had been sold to the Winsome Group, Chandigarh for Rs 3.16 crore on December 10, 2004.

According to sources, the official liquidator had received bids from companies offering to buy only parts of the company. And the only consolidated bid had been received from the Sun Group today.


Khalra case: arrest of key witness stayed
Our High Court  Correspondent

Chandigarh, January 28
The Punjab and Haryana High Court today stayed the arrest of a key witness in the case relating to alleged disappearance of human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra.

Mr Justice S.N. Aggarwal also issued notice of motion to the respondents for February 11.

In his petition, witness Kirpal Singh Randhawa of Amritsar alleged that he had been wrongly booked in criminal case. He has been charged with attempt to murder and criminal conspiracy, allegedly at the behest of the state government.

Rape charge was pressed on him by the Government. He is presently on bail in the case. The petitioner sought quashing of the case registered by the Patiala Police against him on October 25, 2004. After hearing his counsel, the Bench directed the police not to arrest him till further orders.


Rotational scheme for irrigation
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 28
The Punjab Irrigation Department has announced a rotational programme for irrigation through canal water during the rabi season. The programme, starting from January 29, would continue till February 5.

According to a press release, channels of Sirhind canal system would run on a priority basis from Patiala feeder, Abohar branch, Bist Doab, Sidhwan branch and Bathinda branch canal, respectively.

An irrigation spokesman said direct distributaries of Bhakra main line, Ghaggar link and its off taking channels, including Ghaggar branch and Patiala Minor, would run to their indent. Balance surplus water would be utilised in direct distributaries of Bhakra main line on second preference.

The spokesman further said Punjab channels taking off from Harika, besides Ferozepore headworks and branches, would run on first preference to their indent. Balance water supplies available would be utilised in direct distributaries of Sirhind feeder in group “A”.

The spokesman also said channels taking off from Upper Bari Doab Canal would run to their indent. Balance surplus water would be utilised in Lahore branch, Sabraon branch and Kasur branch.


Agriculture technocrats stage dharna
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 28
To lodge protest against the appointment of a ‘non-agricultural technocrat’ as the Director, Agriculture, members of the Agriculture Technocrats Action Committee, Punjab, staged a dharna in front of the office of the Deputy Commissioner here today.

Addressing the protesters, Dr Gurkanwal Singh, convener of the committee, alleged that the appointment of a person who had experience of 17 years and who had “not” acquired basic agricultural education was violation of the norms of the department.

He said the government should chose an officer from the administration wing of the department for appointment at the said post.

Dr Bhupinder singh Shahpuri, chairman of the committee, said the decision of the Punjab Government was “anti-Punjab” and it would have an adverse fallout on agricultural scenario in the state.

Dr Baldev Singh Kahlon, district convener of the committee, advocated the need for unity among farmers, farmers’ organisations and agricultural technocrats so that the agriculture sector could be saved from the current quagmire.


Experts discuss farmers’ problems
Our Correspondent

Patiala, January 28
A two-day international conference on “Punjab peasantry in turmoil” commenced in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology on the Punjabi University campus here yesterday. Prof Aijaz Ahmed of Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi, inaugurated the conference, while Prof Utsa Patnaik of JNU, New Delhi, gave the keynote address.

Prof Patnaik presented a factual picture of problems being faced by the Indian peasantry, while emphasising that a wide chasm separated facts from figures and that the present farmer was not a picture of prosperity that economists would have us believe. She stated that the rot in poverty studies discussions seemed to have set in during the period of neo-liberal reforms in India, particularly in the course of the late 1990s. The Indian Government, she said, was eager to claim success for the economic reforms.


Inside Babudom
An exercise of arbitrary powers
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 28
It’s a classic example of how the Punjab government functions.

Even though the rules were “clear” and a clarification was issued by the Central government in favour of 11 IPS officers — belonging to the Punjab cadre — their case was opposed by the state government.

Now taking a serious view of the matter, the Central Administrative Tribunal has imposed a cost of Rs 22,000 on the state and other respondents. The Tribunal has also directed them to “fix the officers’ pay in the scale of Rs 12,000 and Rs 15,500 as on January 1, 1996, in the substantive post of Deputy Superintendents of Police (DSPs) held by them on that date....”

Allowing the application, the Tribunal has directed the respondents to further “give all consequential benefits, including the arrears of pay arising out of such refixation....”

Paramjit Singh Gill, IPS, and 10 others had earlier claimed that their juniors were drawing more pay than them. As such, they were “entitled to correct fixation of pay”.

Going into the background of the matter, the applicants had contended that they were inducted to the IPS by promotion with effect from July 25, 1995, and were confirmed with effect from the same date next year.

As they continued to maintain lien on their substantive posts in the Punjab Police till the confirmation date, they were entitled to benefits “that accrued in that service”.

Referring to a Punjab government notification regarding the grant of pay revision benefit to the DSPs with effect from January 1, 1996, the applicants had added that they were holding their lien on the DSPs post on that date. As such, they were entitled to re-fixation of pay in the IPS cadre “after taking into consideration pay scale of the substantive post of DSPs”

After hearing the arguments in the case, Tribunal’s Bench, comprising Vice-Chairman L.M. Goyal and Member Jasbir S. Dhaliwal, ruled: “We have no hesitation in concluding that the state of Punjab has taken the plea that the claim of the applications was rejected as per a clarification given by the Government of India. But while going through the communication, we find that it rather supports the applicants’ claim. Thus, the clarification given by the Government of India has been misinterpreted and misapplied for the reasons best known to the authorities....”

The Bench added: “Before parting with the case, we would be failing in our duty if we do not comment upon the conduct of the authorities dealing with the case. First, the rule position was clear. Two, even on state government’s reference to the Government of India, a clarification was given in the applicant’s favour. Yet, their case was opposed. Such exercise of arbitrary powers cannot be said to be bonafide.... Thus, we would be doing justice while saddling the respondents with costs, which we quantify as Rs 22,000, to be paid equally to the applicants”.

The Bench concluded: “The state government would be at liberty to recover the amount from the officers who have been responsible for dealing with the matter and putting the government in unnecessary litigation....”

Besides Mr Gill, the other applicants included, Tehal Singh Dhaliwal, Bhushan Kumar Garg, Roshal Lal Bhagat, Jagdish Kumar, Balbir Kumar Bawa, Parampal Singh, Rajinder Parshad Mittal, Nirmal Singh, Sham Lal and Kawaljit Singh.


ZP official reinstated
Tribune News Service

Ropar, January 28
The Department of Rural Development and Panchayat, Punjab, has ordered the reinstatement of accountant of the Zila Parishad, Ropar, who was suspended for issuing cheques without authority.

Dharmvir was suspended for issuing cheques worth Rs 24.50 lakh to the Minister of Animal Husbandry and Fishery Jagmohan Kang, who distributed the cheques among people of the 24 villages for development.

Sources informed that the accountant joined duty yesterday, but the Zila Parishad did not confirm it.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Zila Parishad had objectioned to the suspension of the accountant claiming that the order passed by chairman, Ms Kuldeep Kaur, was not as per the Panchayat Act, 1994.


Sekhon OSD to CM
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 28
The Punjab Government has appointed Mr Karanpal Singh Sekhon as officer on special duty with Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh with immediate effect.

According to a spokesman, the appointment was made on the recommendation of the Chief Minister.


Bank manager held for taking bribe
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, January 28
Under its anti-corruption drive, two different teams of the Vigilance Bureau, Bathinda, arrested Nachhatar Singh Gill, manager, Primary Agriculture Development Bank, Talwandi Sabo, and Mohinder Partap, a telephone mechanic, posted at Musa village in Mansa district, for their alleged involvement in taking bribe from two different persons.

Nachhatar Singh Gill was arrested by a team of the Vigilance Bureau led by DSP Jaspal Singh when he was taking a bribe of Rs 4,000 from Daljit Singh in lieu of making payment to him in connection with the taxi charges, owned by the complainant and hired by the bank, Mohinder Partap was caught red-handed while he was taking a bribe of Rs 500 from Sukhpal Singh for permitting his brother, Kuldeep Singh, to use the STD facility on his telephone connection.

Mr Amrik Singh Waraich, SSP, Vigilance Bureau, Bathinda, in a press note issued here today said that Nachhatar Singh Gill was caught in the presence of two government witnesses, Mr Ranjit Singh, Agriculture Development Officer (ADO), and Mr Buta Singh, clerk, Agriculture Department. One shadow witness was also present when the accused was caught. The bribe money of Rs 4,000 was recovered from one of the pockets of the jacket worn by the accused.

He added that the bribe money of Rs 500 was also recovered from Mohinder Partap.


3 cops in soup over bribe charges
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 28
The district police has suspended three Head Constables, Jaimal Singh, Kulbir Singh and Jaswinder Singh, for allegedly taking a bribe of Rs 25,000.

The case was registered, after an inquiry conducted by the SP(D) of Majitha police district, on a complaint by Ms Harjit Kaur who had claimed that her husband was falsely implicated in a flesh trade case.

In the enquiry, the police official mentioned that the accused head constables, who were posted at B-division police station at the time of incident, raided a house in an area falling under Chheharta police station.

The accused arrested four persons, including two girls, from the house. However, they did not inform the concerned police station.

The report added that the Head Constables instead of taking any legal action against the accused took Rs 25,000 as bribe and released the arrested persons.

A case under Sections 7, 13 (1), 13 (2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act has been registered against the erring policemen at Chheharta police station.


Abducted boy’s body found
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, January 28
The Sadar police recovered the body of Raja (6), son of Mr Sham Singh of Gali Surain Singh Wali here, from Alladinpur canal today. He had been missing since January 26.

He was allegedly strangled to death by Inderjit Singh and his son, Harminder Singh. The accused lived in the same locality.

A case under Section 365 of the IPC was registered at the city police station, which would now be converted into a case under Section 302 of the IPC, police sources said.

The police has arrested Inderjit Singh, while Harminder has been absconding after the incident.

According to details, the deceased was kidnapped by the accused while he was going to deliver food to his father at his shop. An old enmity was said to be the reason behind the crime.


One held for murder
Our Correspondent

Kharar, January 28
The police has arrested one person for killing a 34-year-old resident of Sahora village on the night of January 22.

The suspect, Mohan Singh, alias Mohana, was arrested for Padiala village last night. Mohan Singh had allegedly killed his friend Nachhatar Singh after the two had argument under the influence of liquor.

After killing Nachhatar Singh, Mohan Singh dumped his body in the nearby fields.

The police believes that more than one person was involved in the murder. Mohan Singh had been remanded in police custody for one day.


NRI donates $ 25,000 to school
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 28
The management of a school for deaf and dumb in Patiala, which had to endure the agony of being served a fake cheque for Rs 5 lakh by a youngster claiming to have inherited it from an uncle abroad, can now redeem the loss with an NRI donating $25,000 for the institution besides promising another $45,000.

The management had suffered a shock in October last year when Jaskaran Singh Randhawa visited the school and gave the cheque to it. Randhawa had a field day getting his photographs clicked by news photographers while he interacted with children of the school. He also gave statements to journalists that he would donate more and it was only after a fortnight that it was discovered that he was a “fraud” who had no wealthy uncle.

This time around the experience of the school management has been completely different. “The family of Mr Prem Puri, who visited the school along with his son Vicrum Puri, did not want photographs to be clicked to record their donation,” says Col Karaminder Singh (retd), secretary of the society which runs the institution. “In fact, we are releasing news of the donation only after the family has left for the USA,” he adds.


Nod to 9 medical subjects
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 28
Baba Farid University of Health Sciences has granted permission to Guru Ram Das Institute of Medical Sciences and Research at Vallah near here to start nine new medical post-graduate courses.

Dr U.S. Dhaliwal, Director-cum-Principal of the institute, informed in a press statement here today that the university had conducted a three-day inspection from January 19 to 21 before giving them the nod for starting the courses.

The postgraduate courses include Surgery, Orthopaedics, Ophthalmology, ENT, Radio Diagnosis, Paediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Anaesthesia and Medicine.


2 Gurmat Awards in memory of Tohra
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 28
The executive Committee of the Sikh Educational Society has decided to institute two annual Gurmat Awards in the name of Late Jathedar Gurcharan Singh Tohra. Each award would consist of a siropa, a plate and Rs 51,000 cash.

M. Bharpur Singh, secretary of the society, said the award would be given to scholars in the field of Sikh religion, comparative religious study and Sikh history. The scholarship was open to scholars from all fields.

The award has been announced to commemorate the 400th anniversary of installation of Guru Granth Sahib. For the year 2004, the awards for the first time were being given to Prof Manohan Singh of Patiala, who has translated Guru Granth Sahib in to Devnagri script alongwith Hindi explanation. The second person to be presented the award is Dr Kharak Singh, a Sikh scholar.

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